Remarque in the first pages of his book All Quiet on the Western Front summarises the theme of his entire text by dedicating it to "a generation that was destroyed by the war - even those who survived the shelling". This text is the tragic account of a young man, and the other millions of young men killed or emotionally and mentally shattered by World War I.
The novel is brutally honest and is told from the unique first-person viewpoint of a young German soldier, Paul Baumer. From the first hand accounts of Remarque, who served in the war, Baumer's depiction of the horrors and degradations of war, and the physical, spiritual and psychological toll it takes on all its participants gains credibility and makes for shocking and powerful reading.
Within the short space of a few hundred pages Remarque strips the somewhat romanticized "great" war of all its false glory and reveals instead the true terrifying and relentless horror that was the event. By the end, our young soldier crumbles and, as was the fate of his nine other classmates who enlisted together, is yet another victim of the war to end all wars - destroyed in his soul, heart, mind and finally his body.
Remarque's novel pulls no punches in shattering any illusions that may be held by his readers of the glamour, glory and romance of war. He shows instead the animal brutality, the torn and horrible human disfigurement, the dread, the anxiety and soul-deadening suffering that is the result of "modern" mechanized trench warfare. Remarque brutally strips away these misconceptions with his grimly poetic prose to reveal truth. As Baumer and his young friend are increasingly desensitized on the western front, their only small joys come from having a modicum of decent food to eat, and the empty satisfaction of their sexual drives in brothels. Long before most of them meet their gruesome physical deaths on the barren, muddy barbed-wired landscapes of the battlefield, they have already died spiritually and emotionally to all of life's hopes and possibilities.